Roughly speaking, the political and social aspects of Islam in Pakistan can be seen as existing in and emerging from three distinct sets and clusters of thought. These clusters represent the three variations of political and social Islam that have evolved in this country: modern, popular and conservative.
The modern aspect of Islamic thought in Pakistan has its roots in the ‘Aligarh Movement’ – a nineteenth century effort launched by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.
His analysis convinced him that the Muslims of India had failed to come to grips with the new zeitgeist emerging from the rise of western colonialism – a power driven by breakthroughs in modern scientific thought and economics, and pragmatic politics based on rational and dispassionate self-interest, all of which stemmed from the many doctrines and socio-political upheavals witnessed in the West during the ‘Age of Reason/Enlightenment.’
Ahmed strived to reinterpret the teachings of Islam so they could be brought in harmony with modern science and philosophy, helping the educated Muslims to continue holding on to their religion but through a rational and enlightened view of life.
Though accused of heresy by conservative Islamic scholars, Ahmed managed to lay the foundations of a modern college in Aligarh in an attempt to draw young Muslims away from the traditional madrassahs towards a place of learning where religious studies would be supplemented by the teaching of modern ‘secular subjects.’